The Oscar-nominated movie Selma told the story of the march of equal rights activists, lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. The movie displayed the struggle of activists to gain understanding from the oppressive white majority in both the South communities and the American government. The movie was released nationwide on Jan. 9, 2015, six months after the conflict in Ferguson began with the shooting of Michael Brown. The immediate reaction was a comparison of Ferguson to the civil rights movement.
Racism has a deep seeded root in American conflicts. From Michael Brown to Trayvon Martin to Rodney King, Americans have rallied behind the racially charged conflicts that remind it so much of its past. But does the United States have a racism problem? Maybe not necessarily.
Though minorities of race and gender have equal rights, the history of the discrimination plagues perceptions of these minority communities. Stereotypes are stemmed in a modern disrespect for minorities and unfairly depicts these groups for generations.
A great example of a long-lasting stereotype was seen in the Always’ Super Bowl commercial, where different people were asked to do things like a girl. The minority population is continually mocked, but the jokes are never intended to harm, just to get a laugh. What seems to be America’s problem is not that it doesn’t promise equal rights and opportunities, but has a deep rooted lack of respect of anyone who is not a white heterosexual male.
These trends are deep rooted and started in, not surprisingly, the South during the Reconstruction Era of the United States, the time period after the American Civil War after slavery was abolished. Jim Crow was a prop used by white comedians to mock African Americans. This stereotype of unintelligence is a stereotype that African Americans battle even today.
This discrimination is evident in salaries for these minority groups. In a study done by Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2012, it will take until 2056 for men’s and women’s earnings to be equal in the United States, given the current rate of progress.
I think many of the frustrations of the equal rights movements in the United States stem from a lack of respect and understanding. There is a long history of people of color being looked down on and women being told to get back into the kitchen. These frustrations of sometimes unintentional belittling can build up resulting in massive protests.
“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.”
– Maya Angelou, poet and author
Reviewed by Krista Kull